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Long IslandSuffolk

SPCA: Southampton Town cop comes to aid of snapping turtle crossing Montauk Highway

Southampton Town Police Officer Donald Metcalf with the

Southampton Town Police Officer Donald Metcalf with the snapping turtle he rescued. The turtle was trying to cross Montauk Highway just west of the Hampton Bays Diner on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, when the officer came to its rescue. Credit: Suffolk County SPCA

On Sunday afternoon Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk County SPCA, was cruising west on Montauk Highway when he saw a police officer pulled over with lights flashing.

Gross stopped, just west of the Hampton Bays Diner, with an eye to assisting with whatever -- possibly an accident.

Instead, he was heartened to witness Southampton Town police Officer Donald Metcalf gingerly giving a four-legged creature a helping hand.

Metcalf had pulled over to assist a snapping turtle that was making its way across the busy highway, and otherwise would likely have become a turtle pancake, Gross said.

Metcalf picked up the turtle with his bare hands -- definitely not advisable for the uninitiated -- and walked it into the nearby Munn's Pond County Park, Gross said.

"The snapping turtle is a very aggressive predator" that will "snap at anything they find threatening," according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation website. "Their snap is so powerful that it can easily shear fingers -- so stay a safe distance away!"

In addition, it happens to be New York's official state reptile.

Gross advises people who spot one to call local police or the SPCA, but if the creature needs to be moved immediately the safest way is to toss the turtle the end of a towel or blanket, which the reptile will chomp onto, allowing it to be dragged away.

As for Sunday's rescue, "I was happy to witness it," said Gross, with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issuing a news release Monday praising Metcalf's actions.

The question remains: Why was the turtle crossing the road?

Gross said he could provide no answer, but that he had issued the turtle "a strong warning that he should not be doing it."

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